"No matter what learning disability you have, what mental health challenge you have, what housing crisis you’re in, and what your past is, you’re treated as an individual and with respect"

Receptionist Administrator

My favourite part of this job is meeting the clients - 100%! They’re living their lives to the full and hearing them interact with their support workers is really lovely. 

One of the best things about my job is seeing the diverse range of services we offer and how each client is treated with such respect.
 
No matter what learning disability you have, what mental health challenge you have, what housing crisis you’re in, and what your past is, you’re treated as an individual and with respect. At Southdown we look to the future. The client feedback is so great because of that.
 
I’m a Receptionist and Administrator at Bell Lane in Lewes.
 
I came here straight after uni where I worked as a Student Ambassador and then as an Admissions Officer. I’ll have been here for five years in November 2018.
 
I was initially part-time until the full-time post became available. I used to work Mondays to Fridays at Southdown and then as an Administrator at a nursing home during the weekends as I was saving up for a deposit!
 
Nothing has compared to working here. I don’t think there’s anywhere quite like it! 
 
Although I don’t work directly with clients I see them all the time and hear the effect that Southdown has on their lives. None of my friends who work in the corporate world say that about their organisation. Being able to say you’re proud to work at your organisation is quite rare in a job.
 
At Bell Lane there are two Receptionist Administrators and the Office Manager. It’s nice on the reception ‘cos you get a bird’s eye view of the organisation. You have to know a little about a lot, like contact details, service details, and referral pathways. Southdown has really diversified over the years I’ve been here. The services have changed so much.
 
We try and create a welcoming environment and we always try to be really friendly. I hope people enjoy that first interaction as much as we do, ‘cos we love meeting people. Because Southdown’s values and ethos are really clear, it’s nice to be able to represent Southdown really well.
 
We deal with all the incoming enquiries for the organisation as a whole. It’s a busy job. 
 
The main telephone number for Southdown goes through to us. We get enquiries by phone and by email. Sometimes they can be really specific which can be really helpful. 
 
We organise the running of the couriers and manage the use of the Sensory Room. We send out the couriers three days a week to other offices and our learning disability services, and we get five or six bookings for the Sensory Room a day so whoever is in first makes sure it’s ready to be used.
 
We do admin work which includes managing the staff and visitor figures, the Sensory Room spreadsheets, staff and visitor books, and spreadsheets for the Corporate Risk & Facilities Manager if he needs assistance. We also assist other departments with mail merges, excel projects, and their own admin tasks.
 
You can’t always predict how a day will be and the workload totally varies. Whenever there’s a quiet time, you appreciate that! We do have time for a tea and a chocolate biscuit when the chaos has passed!
 
A typical morning is heavily focused on incoming queries from external agencies, staff, current clients, and new referrals. First thing in the morning is when the phones are really busy. It’s non-stop for a few hours. We check any phone messages and emails from clients who’ve had issues in their homes the night before. At lunchtime a stationery order usually arrives and amongst all this is the parking chaos! In the afternoon we sort any couriers that have been returned to us – a lot of private and confidential information comes in which means we pass it to managers directly. We also follow up any emails from clients or workers from the previous day if we’ve not received a response.
 
Recently our Office Manager has been assisting the Health and Safety team in her visits to the community wellbeing centres and other Southdown offices.
 
At 3.15pm we send out post via Royal Mail to our other offices and learning disability services. And our last client for a sensory session is in by 4pm so we update the excel spreadsheet to reflect the payments made throughout the day for this service.
 
My favourite part of this job is meeting the clients - 100%! They’re living their lives to the full and hearing them interact with their support workers is really lovely. The support workers have as much fun doing it too!  I think Southdown’s really unique in that respect.
 
The staff here are also great - I’ve made some really really good friends here.
 
The challenge is giving callers information they don’t want to hear if they come from areas of Sussex where we can’t directly help them. That’s really difficult.
 
Parking is also a real challenge! It’s an unmarked shared car park and we have a limited number of spaces. People who are visitors or have mobility issues take priority. 
 
Keeping up to date with all the services we now provide can also be a challenge. Often there are lots of new services that we need to keep abreast of. But in turn, it’s also really nice and satisfying when you do work out the service and how they refer!
 
I think the work-life balance here is incredible. This is something that Southdown promotes well and follows through on.
 
The way our Office Manager structures our working week is really efficient because there can be days that are really stressful.
 
I’m proud that this job has made me more patient and improved my confidence in dealing with external agencies. I feel more confident in the information I give them.
 
Receiving feedback from these external agencies feels good too. It’s really nice to have someone recognise when you’ve done a good job and for me to hear that their interaction with Southdown has been really positive. We get a lot of great feedback from other agencies about our staff and their work – it’s really nice to hear. 
 
We have to be able to multitask in this role! We have to be able to pick up and drop tasks at the drop of a hat and we have to be able to prioritise our workload. For example, I can be halfway through a spreadsheet and something more important comes through. 
 
We also have to be sensitive and pragmatic and not fall apart under pressure. We have to keep calm!
 
I’m part of the Staff Forum which I really love and I’ve recently joined the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group. It’s really good to be able to put forward your ideas – it’s a great part of my job. Everyone is treated so equally here – you never feel out of place. I really love that. 
 
As a Receptionist and Administrator I have to be able to gauge situations and adjust the environment for different clients and their needs. This is the main reception for everyone – all walks of life. We have directors of private IT companies, councillors, and clients coming in, through to people who drop by because they are street homeless. 
 
We try not to prioritise anyone over someone else. Although some things can be more pressing, we do try and treat everyone’s concern fairly. We always say, “the little is met with the large.”
 
I hope that people feel it’s somewhere that no matter what they’re here for, they’ll be treated with respect and leave with the answer they were looking for.